Business

Hundreds of Companies Are Giving Employees Time Off to Vote

In 2014, the US experienced a record low in the number of people turning out to vote. Just 36.4% of eligible voters turned up at the polls, the lowest amount since World War II. Many of these people fail to turn up because they can’t — they are too busy working.

Rose Marcario, the CEO of outdoor clothing store Patagonia, made the decision to close all of its stores November 6th starting in 2016 so that employees would have the opportunity to vote. She made the call for other businesses to do the same.

Her call has been answered. A new campaign called, “Time to Vote,” is doing just that. The campaign was started by companies like Patagonia, and asks businesses all over the US to give their employees paid time off to vote. Almost 325 companies are giving their employees paid time off so they have the opportunity to vote in the upcoming election. This includes companies such as Pinterest, Gofundme, and change.org.

As Raina Moskowitz, the Senior VP of People, Strategy, and Member Services put it, “Voting is one of the most important ways that we can participate in our government. Election Day isn’t a national holiday, and it isn’t easy for everyone to get to the polls outside of working hours. That’s why Etsy provides employees with the option to vote during working hours if they choose to help ensure their voices can be heard.”

Not all of these businesses are closing, but all of them do work with their employees to allow them to vote as conveniently as possible. Options include taking a long lunch break, coming in late, leaving early, or not working altogether. Of these, the best option is often taking the day off, due to the length of voting lines which can sometimes be as long as a 7 hour wait.

Business support like this is essential to improving voter turn-out. Currently there are no federal laws that require businesses to give their employees time to vote. It is entirely up to the individual states whether to require time to vote or not. As of 2018, only 23 states have some sort of requirements in place to help voters turn up at the polls.

While it is too soon to tell whether these voting campaigns will help for the 2018 elections, previous efforts seem to be working. Last year the turnout was 56%, much better than the dismal 36.4% of 2014. Unfortunately, even this improved turnout is one of the lowest in developed countries around the world. Seoul, South Korea has over 77% of its eligible population registered as voters. Mexico, Slavakia, and Estonia all have greater voter turnout than the US.

Voting is a vital part of our country. As a democracy, voting is how we decide where to go together, as a society. Everything from who our leader is, to what laws are made, all depend on the votes of the people. You can help shape the face of the country by voting, so take the time and vote November 6th.

Find a polling place near you.

How $20 Can Take a Ton of Carbon Out of the Atmosphere

If you’re passionate about the environment and concerned about the effects of climate change, you have probably heard the term “Carbon Offsets” used by many businesses when describing their sustainability projects. Lyft recently committed to purchasing enough of them to cover all of their rides’ emissions, and many other large companies such as General Motors and Barclays purchase them to help make their businesses more environmentally friendly.

If you aren’t familiar with what they are, carbon offsets can sound a little like the 15th century practice of buying indulgences. It sounds nice, but is relatively useless when the efforts to reduce carbon aren’t personally made by the company itself.

In the case of carbon offsets, this simply isn’t true. When a company purchases the carbon offsets, they are funding projects that remove vast quantities of carbon from the air. While that carbon removal doesn’t come from switching their office lights out early, or putting fewer cars on the road, it is no less effective. Many of the projects funded would never come to life if it wasn’t for the offsets that make funding available.

Another example of this is how some airlines like Emirates, American Airlines, and Delta offer their passengers the opportunity to purchase enough carbon offsets to cover the amount of emissions that their share of the airplane trip produces. Because flying is unavoidable for some people, these kinds of offsets meet people where they already are and offer them a environmentally-minded solution.

 

So what is a carbon offset?

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A carbon offset is a certificate acknowledging the fact that funds paid for by one company, will remove a certain amount of carbon (usually in tons) from the air. Companies that sell carbon offsets pay for projects that remove carbon, through projects such as creating green energy, capturing and destroying the greenhouse gases, or sequestering the carbon through the planting and management of forests.

These projects have profound impact on climate change. In some cases, such as Lyft’s carbon offset project to make car parts lighter, the project would never be possible without the carbon offsets. This is because the price is often not considered worth it by car companies, even though the impact on climate change can be seen for decades after the creation of the part.

Carbon offsets are essential for businesses who have no other way to make their business sustainable. While some of these we can argue would be better off not existing, carbon offsets also offer the chance to be sustainable to small businesses and even individuals that care about the environment.

In some locations, purchasing green energy is impossible, but thanks to carbon offsets, a small business that wants to be sustainable can purchase offsets equal to the power they consume. Eventually they may even reap the benefits of these projects, as green energy becomes more widely available thanks to the offsets available.

 

Are there drawbacks to carbon offsets?

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While anything that helps fight climate change is good, carbon offsets are frequently criticized because they allow companies to continue old habits without real change. The concern is that if the companies that use carbon offsets instead of addressing real problems in their business continue to do so, the damage done to the climate will worsen.

Despite these concerns, carbon offsets allow healing to occur in our delicate environment, and they are a great first step toward improving our global situation. Carbon offsets not only give us a chance to do better in our own lives, but to help address the carbon we can’t do anything about too.

Carbon offset credits are great because not only can the largest companies and governments in the world purchase them to offset emissions, they also allow anyone who is passionate about ending climate change to buy personal carbon offset credits, which broadens the scope of who can participate in large scale sustainability projects, and increasing those projects’ exposure.

To learn more about carbon offset credits or to purchase some of your own, check out sites like Terrapass or Carbon Fund.

Better Business: What are B Corps?

You may have seen their logo on your favorite bottle of shampoo, or displayed on the website of the tech firm you use for your company. The eye catching “B” might make you wonder what's different about what you're buying, and with an in-depth look at what B corporations are will quickly tell you that seeing the B is definitely for the best.

What are B Corps?

Just like you can certify a company to be organic, or to be fair trade, you can now certify a company to be transparent, ethical to people and animals, and sustainable. B Corps are businesses who have successfully passed a rigorous set of standards that quite simply make the world a better place.

B Corp certification is different from other types because it is so comprehensive. It doesn't just cover whether your business harms their employees or contractors in their practices or damages wildlife through pesticides. It takes a broad look at whether or not the business in question is making a positive or negative impact on the world.

Businesses take a thorough assessment test that screens for potentially negative side effects of their company. They are then given a list of recommended changes to help improve their company. The full spectrum approach covers everything from their environmental impact, to legal and ethical responsibilities. For a company that is dedicated to being a force for good, there is no better certification process.

Source:  B Corporation

How B Corps Came to Exist

Jay Coen Gilbert, Bart Houlahan, and Andrew Kassoy are the founders of B Labs—the non-profit organization behind the B Corp certification process. When they set out to create B Labs, their vision was to change how the world of economics worked. Instead of businesses competing to make the most money or to be the best business in the world, they wanted these same companies to compete for the position of best for the world. 

Their first step toward this dream came in 2006, when B Labs officially opened. They named their opening day “Inter-dependence day” and have worked hard ever since to meet their goals. They spent months developing their assessment, shaping just what it means to be a force for good in the corporate world.

Since then, B Labs has seen significant growth. Hundreds of companies have earned their certification, and with it the right to put the B Corps logo on their products. In some places, B Labs has been invited to help change political policies, and businesses themselves have altered for the better thanks to their efforts. B Labs helps companies rewrite their corporate documents so that they are freed from working only for shareholders, and instead work for stakeholders. This tiny word shift doesn't seem too different, but its vital.

To please shareholders, all you need to worry about is money. This can lead to some troubling tactics in today's modern era. Stakeholders however, aren't just the people who own shares. They include everyone or anything that has an interest in the business outside of money. This could be the environment (since its well being is at stake) to people who may directly benefit or suffer depending on the business.

Changing the corporate paperwork frees management so that they can take into consideration what the overall impact of their decisions will be—not just the financial ones.

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The Impact of B-Labs

As you can imagine, B-labs has had a profound impact on the world, and for a rare change of pace in the corporate world, a positive one. On a global scale, this new methodology has made some huge permanent changes to law itself.

30 states in the U.S. now have specific legislation allow “Benefit Corporations” to put the social impact of their business on the same footing as their financial impact. Until this time, corporations could be held legally responsible if they didn't put shareholders and their interests first. 

Outside of the U.S. Other countries are also establishing similar laws, such as the "Società Benefit” law in Italy. This is a huge win for companies that are trying to balance a tidy bottom line with ethics and environmental issues. 

 

A Look at the Companies Shaping Our Future

Over 2,000 companies have earned the right to display the B-Corp logo. These companies range from retail stores and tech firms to product manufacturers and banks. Companies have been certified in over 130 industries so far. A few of the more interesting ones include:

Nada Grocery

Source: Nada Grocery

Source: Nada Grocery

At Nada, the focus is on food. It is a store that sells its food naked, without any packaging. You don't have to purchase an entire bunch of kale or a whole dozen eggs. You decide how much you need of each ingredient. You bring your own containers to shop, so there is no packaging waste. Considering 30-40% of food produced for the United States to consume is wasted, a buy-what-you need model like Nada's could have profound implications if adopted widely.

Most of the food is local, organic, and fair trade, making this already unique store into a powerhouse for not only nutrition, but for good. Nada was previously a pop-up store, and it has grown so much in popularity that it now has a permanent location.

 

Outland Denim

A post shared by Outland Denim (@outlanddenim) on

For most of the clothing industry, how clothing is made so cheaply is a dirty little secret no one wants to talk about. The fact is, most clothing is made on unlivable wages and in terrible working conditions. Outland Denim is a force for good in this industry. They focus on hiring women who are at risk for falling into poverty, which make them vulnerable to exploitation in the area that Outland Denim's manufacturing plant is located.

The women who are hired are given fair wages, training, and good work conditions. On top of this, the material they use to make the jeans are responsibly sourced, including organic cotton and natural dyes to help reduce their impact on the environment.

 

All of the stories from B-Corps are inspiring to read. The companies who have earned this logo clearly care about their employees, their customers, and their environment. The next time you are searching for a new product and see the prominent “B” on a product—think best. Supporting B-corps is a great way to help make a positive impact on the world, and something that you can add easily into your daily routine.

A searchable list of B Corporations is available on their website.